Talk or Walk

by Bryan Kirschner on December 04, 2007 08:10pm

There’s been a flurry of articles and blogs about Microsoft’s open source strategy lately, spurred in part
by an interview with Bill Hilf (Zachary Rodriques Connolly …and a comment from davidmeyer on my previous post).

Collectively they make me think of a bunch of things to blog about—today I’m going to start with something that
struck me about davidmeyer’s comment (--out of unabashed favoritism for Port25 Smile).  

The nub of the matter is that by many measures, Microsoft and open source are both growing. But what is the nature of
the there a relationship? Are they growing: coincidentally, ships passing in the night in the same
general direction? Complementarily, in a mutually reinforcing way? Or despite one another?

My impression from reading davidmeyer’s comment (as well as others by other people I respect ) is that statements in
the press loom a lot larger in the minds of other folks than in mine as indicators or causes—or both—of the nature of
that relationship.  What I mean is that once you believe open source and Microsoft are established parts of the IT
landscape, talk really becomes the “tail wagging the dog.”

Let me use a little thought experiment to share where I’m coming from:  consider the relationship between Microsoft
and Oracle. Both companies are, I think, universally regarded as established parts of the IT landscape.  As such, both
companies devote a lot of effort to direct, head-to-head competition--we can take some type of sustained competitive activity,
now and in the future, for granted.

At the same time, both companies devote substantial effort to complementary efforts (Here’s all kinds of stuff at the Oracle .NET
developer center
– community discussion, technical resources, marketing collateral…and this is one of three including
Office and Windows sites).  So there’s clearly more than one dimension to the relationship.

So if somebody asked me “what about the complementary relationship between Microsoft and Oracle?” --what would I think about
as indicators?
I’d look at the technology—like application availability, compatibility, interoperability, and performance.

I’d consider the people and the ecosystem—developers and ISVs. 

And I’d want to understand the efforts underway to work together and find joint opportunities, tune and optimize, and

Probably one of the last things I’d consider as an indicator is what’s happening in the press. And the concept that
(for example) whether Larry Ellison and Steve Ballmer had anything nice to say about one another to journalists wouldn’t
be something I’d spend much time thinking about at all. This is not to discount the impact of “talk”, and not to discount
the reality that what folks read in the media can help make them more excited and confident—or suspicious and discouraged. 
And Oracle and Microsoft—two discreet companies--are not a directly applicable comparison to considering Microsoft and open
source in general.  But Port25 principle #3--No comment goes unread & every idea (common sense required) is openly discussed—
really jumped out at me as I was reading  the items linked above (no, I don’t have the principles memorized--they are printed
out and hanging immediately to the left of my monitor…); thus, today’s post.

(And yes, I don’t think it’s even a close call that the indicators I consider important favor an excited and confident view
of the relationship between Microsoft and open source—but that’s something I’ll pick up on another blog.)

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